Here in Santorini I have already finished one novel. I ordered it via Amazon. It was written in 1933 by James Hilton and it is titled "Lost Horizon".
Two things attracted me to it. Firstly, the very fact that it was written between the two world wars and secondly and pre-eminently because this is the story that introduces us to a mystical paradise on earth called Shangri-La. It is part of western culture now. Something of a dream antidote to the oftentimes chaotic character of modern life.
I suspect that Hilton was already aware of tales of lost kingdoms and mystical realms located somewhere in the mountains of western China and Tibet. The idea clearly appealed to him and so his Shangri-La was imagined and brought to life. It is a place of reflection and study - a lamasery that overlooks a verdant valley. A place where "moderation" in all things is the watchword.
By accident or design four westerners are brought there - each with their own stories to tell but the very aged High Lama takes a particular shine to Conway - a veteran of World War One. He seems aimless and frustrated with life until he becomes accustomed to Shangri-La with its ttreasured secrets.
The High Lama says to Conway: "Look at the world today. Is there anything more pitiful? What madness there is! What blindness! A scurrying mass of bewildered humanity crashing headlong against each other. The time must come, my friend, when brutality and the lust for power must perish by its own sword. For when that day comes, the world must begin to look for a new life. And it is our hope that they may find it here.”
Did Conway end his days in Shangri-La? Perhaps he is still there. Or maybe Shangri-La is a state of mind rather than an actual place. "Lost Horizon" is not a great work of fiction but I found it eminently readable and I am pleased that I bothered to order it.
Meanwhile here on this unusual island, I made it up to the little church on the mountainside this morning - along a rocky path that clings to the precipitous slope. The church - Panagia Katefiani - was locked but I was able to peer inside to see images of saints painted in the style of the Greek Orthodox Church. And there were candles and beads and crosses and a pile of logs for the wintertime. I suspect that the church was built up there to be close to a holy water source located in an adjacent cave.
|Not my own picture - View from Panagia Katefiani over Perissa|